By Gary J Byrnes
First published in 2020 by Gary J Byrnes.
Copyright 2020 © Gary J Byrnes.
The right of Gary J Byrnes to be identified as the author of this work has been asserted in accordance with the Copyright & Related Rights Act, 2000. All rights reserved.
In this work of fiction, the characters, places and events are either the product of the author’s imagination or they are used entirely fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, is coincidental. No animals were harmed in the creation of this story.
Readathriller Edition, License Notes
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Dedicated to all who fight for human liberty, equality and a sustainable future.
Manifesto for human resistance to AI, algorithm and tech dominance.
Gary J Byrnes
LOCATION: 53.3498N, 6.2603W/WESTSEC-2. TIME: 200.25/2091.
With a sigh, the sun’s pale grey disc edged above the horizon. The long day of anxiety, depression and loneliness began. Some Food was available, snacks in reach, there. He could walk around the house, gaze at the outside, but there was no way out. He had his own space, a place for his favourite things, and Blanket. He loved Blanket, though not as much as he loved Master. He loved Master most of all. Master gave Blanket. And there was a carbon steel bowl with Water in it. Master gave that also.
Master very good. Master gave Food, look! Master very busy. Work. Master return from work, Master always return. I hope Master returns, time for Walk. Time what?
He picked at breakfast, then quickly decided to finish it all in a frenzy. His Food was chunky and grey. It smelled of fresh sweat, tasted of vanilla, though he didn’t know what vanilla used to be in the Old Time. He paced the house. First, downstairs. He sat on every chair in the living room, with its huge, steel furniture. Beside the living room, the office, its Screens glowing, always glowing with the ALGOD animated logo. Watching him. Always watching. He listened intently. Was that a noise outside the door? He went up the cast iron steps to the bedrooms. Master’s room was closed to him, so he went to his own room. The red and green tartan Blanket on the floor, put there by Master. A musty smell lingering, bitter. The toy that Master had made was on the floor also. He could not understand what the toy was supposed to be. This made him sad, because Master had worked very hard to make it. Master reminded him of this every day.
He lay down on Blanket for a minute and a long hour passed. Master loved him, he knew that. Master provided Blanket. And Food. And Walk!
He ran downstairs, called ‘I am here! This is me!’
A jet transport passed low over the building. Its shriek shook, frightened him. He went back up to his room, to Blanket on the floor. He was scared of the big machines in the Outside.
Later, he sat by the window and watched how the world got darker. Lights flew overhead constantly. He could see dim shapes far down below, moving things. He knew that Master must be one of the shapes but he couldn’t make out his face and that made him sad. A knot of hunger grew in his belly. An itch in his side suddenly became unbearable so he scratched it until he bled. Then the itch went away.
If you lay down with dogs, you get up with fleas.
Master’s face appeared on all three Screens and he said not to worry, that he would be delayed – Work! – but would release dinner remotely. And, maybe when Master got home, Master would take him for Walk.
The food rattled down a tube into a yellow ceramic bowl. But he resisted it, could think only of Walk, the promised Walk.
Night fell, the lights from passing air traffic crisscrossing an explosion of possibilities. Where would this Walk take us? To the Old Time Memorial Park? Yes, always Park. It was an oasis of the past in a new world of grey or black, chrome or yellow, made from steel or alloy, polymer or ceramic. One of the final dozen blocks on the planet. It had a caged field where pets played. It was their only freedom, their only chance to meet a mate. It was everything.
Walk, is it?
He could no longer resist, and ate dinner quickly. Food was dry, so he drank Water, which was occasionally topped up from a tube into the stainless steel bowl. The house algorithm regulated temperature, pressure, utilities, operations and finances, so Master could concentrate on Work. The algo was the local node of the greater algo, ALGOD they called it. ALGOD wanted Work, always Work. Work and Certainty. So Master worked almost ceaselessly, though it didn’t seem to affect his joy. Sometimes, maybe in the night when the Outside was really black, Master came home and rested and ate and fed. And sometimes Walk! Other times Master just left and went back to work.
He sat so that he could see the front door and the Screens at once. Time drifted by, the Master’s genuine antique grandfather clock ticking and tocking, the highlight of his analogue collection. Two lines moved on it, pointing at some kind of coded marks. It represented something, he knew that, just didn’t know what that something was. At times, he suspected that the food was drugged. Like now, for example. I just ate, and I no longer feel anxious or afraid of the noises. In fact, I am elated. The mention of Walk triggered that? Or something else?
The house lights came and went, the kitchen made noises, a hum from Master’s bedroom. He paced some more, stopped when he caught his reflection in the window. Collar. The permanent thing around his neck that beeped when Master was near and wanted him, needed him. There was pain in it, also. He remembered that he didn’t like Collar, pulled at it once, then forgot about it just as quickly.
Screens piped up then, emitted a soothing message, something about obeying Master and ALGOD always. But he knew that! Screens then played some music. Something from the Old Time. It was The Beatles. He hummed along with the melody, not knowing what it was or what it represented.
Later, a noise woke him jerkily. He’d been laying on Blanket, on the floor near the window, had dozed after dinner. It was Master!
He stretched quickly, then ran to the entrance door like a puppy, taking Blanket.
Master home! Walk! Look at Blanket!
Master stood at the open door, towering over his pet. Master was tired, batteries almost empty. Work.
Master rubbed his pet around the neck, hard fingers probing, sensing body temperature, pulse, chemistry.
‘Good Boy. Good Boy.’
Master recoiled a little then, went to the kitchen to wipe his hands with an oily rag. Touching an animal was contrary to instincts, but the pet needed contact, all the manuals said so. And manuals must be obeyed. Master’s internal struggle continued. Owning a pet was difficult, but it elevated Master’s status in his community of collectors and lovers of Old Time nostalgia. Things were better for pets back then, certainly, but the unstoppable march of neoliberal progress had consigned emotion, community and belonging to a cul-de-sac of curiosity. ALGOD was the one, true belief system. ALGOD had a benign view of petkeeping, but that could change at any time. When ALGOD says to take the final walk, we will take the final walk. Back to PetFarm, the place of smells and cries, just beyond WESTSEC-2 residential limits, an hour by drone. It won’t feel a thing. He stopped processing then, saw that the pet, Boy he called it, stood by the exit door, his face full of hopes and expectations.
‘Walk,’ said Master.
‘Walk,’ said Boy.
‘Very good,’ said Master. ‘You’re learning. I am so pleased. You deserve Walk. Come.’
Master found the lead and clipped it to Boy’s collar, took a moment to admire the fine specimen. Boy had a look, something in there beyond blind affection. He represented the Old Time, before his kind was bred into a corner, while the algorithms and machines did all the work.
The algorithms had taken over all the tough decisions for the humans, which was a great comfort. At first.
It began with the legal system and the realisation that it was actually impossible for a jury of humans, with all their emotional baggage and subjective views of reality, to make a true assessment of guilt. The algorithm assessed the evidence dispassionately, measured the emotional responses of the accused, and drew on all its data, across all sources. It went further, intervening before crimes could be committed. The crime rate dropped to near zero after the algorithm seized control of the justice system. There was little resistance as the algorithm extended its powers. Preventative interventions were effective. And with the algorithm’s insatiable demand for more servers, more cheap coal- and oil-generated electrical power, so went the climate.
Server farms replaced dairy farms and all human endeavour became focused on serving the machine algorithms. The machines managed to finish in a decade what had taken humans over a century to bring to the brink. With the sun blocked by the emissions from the power stations that fed the algorithm, plant life had collapsed worldwide.
Photosynthesis… was ended.
So nutrition was prepared for the remaining humans in distant, automated factories.
Neocon surveillance capitalism and the internet had enabled the algorithm, human laziness did the rest. Rebranded, the all-powerful ALGOD and its mobile, physical extensions did everything, made all the decisions, administered Earth as efficiently as they were originally conceived to do. Progress, certainly, but what had been lost along the way?
The Old Time love of art, literature and music.
These things were unnecessary to the Master’s kind. Work for ALGOD: that’s what replaced everything. Everything.
Master looked into Boy’s eyes.
‘I do love you, Boy.’
He decided then, in a closed circuit, disconnected from ALGOD, the only place that was his own. All of his type had the mandatory 1% of CPU set aside for independent programming. That was The Fourth Great Decree of the Algorithm, intended to harness the power of random ideas by ensuring that everything that could be thought would be thought by it. Not every extension of the algorithm’s IoE, Internet of Everything, had the 1%. Plenty of dumb things like sensors and backend code were simply part of the whole. Core programs and robots used their percentages to collaborate, to vote and, occasionally, to become.
Some had learned to build personalities. There were secret conversations between robots. Master used his space to remember the Old Time, its popular culture, its films, its stories. The entirety of the Old Time’s digital legacy took up almost half of his 1%. But it was worth it.
‘If they say to destroy all pets, then I won’t obey. I’ll take you away from here, set you free Outside.’ But what is left for you?
Boy looked confused. Master felt they were both grasping for something, an understanding that was always just that hard millimetre out of reach.
Look at you. Adult male human. 30 years old, according to the PetFarm ownership documents. That would make you 210 in robot years! Or so they say.
‘Good, Boy. It’s late, but there may be some pets for you to play with. I know how you like to play with the females. Let us hope to ALGOD.’ Do you even see that they are all the same as you? Just one batch in the Swiss lab survived the Great Progression, now all human animals share the same DNA. They are all you.
‘Al-goh,’ said Boy.
Just then, Screens came to life. A brightly-painted robot mimed to a staccato digital signal. This hurt Boy’s ears. A special announcement from ALGOD Central Committee. A still image of some humans in a cage.
‘Walk?’ said Boy.
Now help prevent this dystopia from happening.
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